Monday, October 16, 2017

Animal Sacrifice

As we were attempting to read the scriptures as a family yesterday, my seven-year-old daughter mentioned that even Jesus makes mistakes.  I responded saying that Jesus was perfect and had never made mistakes, but she insisted that He had.  I eventually got out of her that she was upset about the fact that He would kill cute little lambs—that was His mistake.  She had been watching some Bible video and learned something about animals being sacrificed and though she hadn’t quite understood it correctly, I did explain that previously Christ had commanded that animals be sacrificed.  She didn’t like the idea of animals being killed, and so she ran out of the roof crying.  How do I explain the logic and reasoning of animal sacrifice to children?  

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Moroni's Witness of Prayer

The most famous verse from Moroni’s writings is likely this invitation to the readers of the Book of Mormon that is shared by missionaries throughout the world: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4).  The invitation simply put is to pray sincerely to gain knowledge from the Lord. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Malachi in the Book of Mormon

It’s interesting to me that the Savior gave the Nephites the words of what we know as the last two chapters of Malachi.  As an introduction to this we read, “And it came to pass that he commanded them that they should write the words which the Father had given unto Malachi, which he should tell unto them. And it came to pass that after they were written he expounded them” (3 Nephi 24:1).  I think it makes sense on some level that the Lord didn’t feel the need to give them the first two chapters.  Malachi 1 chastises the Israelites for offering blemished animals on the altars as a part of their Law of Moses worship, and since the Law of Moses was being done away, there was no need for the Nephites to have that record.  Malachi 2 was directed at priests of the people of Israel, a message that likewise wouldn’t be very applicable to the Nephites in their post-Law of Moses society.  So what was it about Malachi 3 and 4 that were so important for them to have? 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Son of Man

In his recent conference talk, Elder Christofferson spoke about the title “Son of Man” that is frequently used in the scriptures for the Savior.  He said, “Enoch counseled us, ‘Teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence; for, in the language of Adam, Man of Holiness is his name, and the name of his Only Begotten is the Son of Man, even Jesus Christ.’ As a boy, I wondered why in the New Testament Jesus is often referred to (and even refers to Himself) as the Son of Man when He is really the Son of God, but Enoch’s statement makes it clear that these references are actually a recognition of His divinity and holiness—He is the Son of Man of Holiness, God the Father.”  The title “Man of Holiness” is used for God in one other place in the Pearl of Great Price, also in the story of Enoch: “Behold, I am God; Man of Holiness is my name; Man of Counsel is my name; and Endless and Eternal is my name, also” (Moses 7:35).  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Marriage in the Wilderness

 At the start of the journey of Lehi’s and Ishmael's families, Nephi told us, "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, took one of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also, my brethren took of the daughters of Ishmael to wife; and also Zoram took the eldest daughter of Ishmael to wife.  And thus my father had fulfilled all the commandments of the Lord which had been given unto him" (1 Nephi 16:7-8).  It was right after these marriages that the Liahona was given to Lehi and they took off in earnest across the wilderness on their trek to the promise land.  I think there is a lot of symbolism in this act of having the sons marry that tells us about the importance of marriage and family in the Lord's eyes as it relates to our progression towards a spiritual promised land.  I realized as I read this yesterday that there probably was another reason as well for these marriages to take place at the start of their 8 year trek across the Arabian peninsula.  These two families would be traveling in close quarters for the many years ahead with five single men and five single women who were all unmarried.  It was only practical to avoid the temptations to violate God's law of chastity—especially given how rebellious Laman and Lemuel already were—and have them be married up front, thus reducing the opportunity for sin.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Widows and Fatherless

One of the themes that we see in the Law of Moses is the importance of caring for those who have lost husbands and fathers. It's surprising to me how often it is mentioned.  The Lord commanded the Israelites saying, "Ye shall not afflict any widow, or fatherless child" (Exodus 22:22).  In a similar tone He said, "Cursed be he that perverteth the judgment of the stranger, fatherless, and widow" (Deuteronomy 27:19).  In almost identical language He likewise said, "Thou shalt not pervert the judgment of the stranger, nor of the fatherless; nor take a widow’s raiment to pledge" (Deuteronomy 24:17).  The command to not add affliction or injury to the widows and fatherless is clear.  He also invited the Israelites to take care of these groups less able to care for themselves: "And the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come, and shall eat and be satisfied; that the Lord thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest" (Deuteronomy 14:29).  He said about the same thing in a later chapter: "When thou hast made an end of tithing all the tithes of thine increase the third year, which is the year of tithing, and hast given it unto the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that they may eat within thy gates, and be filled; Then thou shalt say before the Lord thy God, I have brought away the hallowed things out of mine house, and also have given them unto the Levite, and unto the stranger, to the fatherless, and to the widow, according to all thy commandments which thou hast commanded me: I have not transgressed thy commandments, neither have I forgotten them" (Deuteronomy 26:12-13).  The Israelites were particularly responsible to help out the widows and orphans.  Jehovah also highlighted to them how He does that: "[The Lord] doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment" (Deuteronomy 10:18).  We are to be like Him in loving and caring for these two groups who are often most in need.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Accuser of our Brethren

In his brief description of the war in heaven the apostle John wrote how the Satan was “cast into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”  He then recorded this, “Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:9-10).  This is an interesting description of what Satan did in the pre-mortal world: he accused the righteous before God.  This seems to confirm the idea that the “war” was likely more of a war of words and ideas than a physical battle like we would imagine a war on earth.  Satan, like he does here, fought the war by seeking to persuade us to reject the plan of the Father. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

People of the First Covenant

In the last words that Mormon left us on the plates, he said this to the “remnant of the house of Israel” who would have his words: “Ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment” (Mormon 7:1, 10).  We of course recognize the first principles of the gospel that Mormon highlighted: faith in Christ, baptism with water, baptism with the Holy Ghost, and arguably repentance (following the Savior’s example).  The phrase that caught my attention was the idea of being “people of the first covenant”—what exactly did he mean by that?

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Stories of Change in Alma

I wrote yesterday how the book of Mosiah provides numerous examples of how people can truly change through repentance.  The people of King Benjamin, Alma the Elder and his converts, the people of King Limhi, Alma the Younger, and the sons of Mosiah all were able to receive the word of God and make fundamental changes in their lives.  There are many as well in the book of Mosiah who did not repent when they had the opportunity—such as Noah, his priests, and the people of Alma who “would not confess their sins and repent of their iniquity”—and these highlight the difficulty of real change (Mosiah 26:36).  The book of Alma likewise continues with these themes of repentance, and despite many who reject the word—such as the majority of the people of Ammonihah, Amalickiah and his followers, and the most hardened of the Lamanites who murder the Anti-Nephi-Lehis—there are again many stories of those who make monumental changes in their lives to reject evil and choose good.  These stories help give us confidence that we too can make changes in our own lives even when breaking negative habits and patterns seems impossible. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Stories of Change in Mosiah

Someone mentioned in our stake conference today how in the books of Mosiah and Alma are all about how people can and do change.  For example, at the beginning of the book of Mosiah the people of King Benjamin had their hearts chanted and they proclaim, “Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2).  The preaching of the word had truly led them to desire to do good—they changed their hearts.